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Friendly basketball rivalry reflects Invictus spirit

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Right from the moment when the Obama’s laid down the gauntlet to Prince Harry and Her Majesty The Queen, the Invictus Games seem to have reminded the world about the real spirit of sport.

Far from being a point of bitterness or controversy, the friendly rivalry between the USA and UK teams at the Orlando Invictus Games has given the whole tournament an atmosphere and spirit like no other.

Although the tournament has included some 149 events over 10 different sports, as the preliminaries of the wheelchair basketball competition went on with the UK beating Denmark (29-10) and the US cruising past the Netherlands (42-9) in the semis, the focus of the Games shifted wholly towards the much anticipated final between the two favourites on 12 May.

The final gold medal of the Games would be decided in the atmospheric HP Field House in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

In some way, the wheelchair basketball tournament was a fitting throwback into the history of disability sport as played by veterans since it was one of the first disciplines added to the schedule at the first Paralympic style Games at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the UK. Just as they do now, recovering war veterans used the power of sports to support their quest towards rehabilitation.

Tournament favourites, USA certainly had an axe of sorts to grind since they lost the final of the basketball competition at the inaugural Games hosted in London during 2014. Indeed, UK captain, Simon Gibbs described it as having been “built up as a bit of a grudge match,” before the game got underway, adding that: “They are always the ones you want to be in as a sportsman,”

Gibbs and his opposite number, Anthony McDaniel, led their teams by example and with plenty of gusto but it was the USA who really put on the style and started to emerge as frontrunners, with McDaniel seemingly having the game of his life and able to constantly pick a scoring shot.

So it was that the US finished on top with a score of 48-16.

Speaking after the match, Prince Harry congratulated the US and all teams involved in the Games this week, saying: “Thank you so much for making unforgettable memories for everyone, for every single competitor,” before admitting that perhaps it was only appropriate that on their home turf, the US should take home the majority of medals.

In the bronze medal final, Denmark beat Netherlands 20-9 winning Bronze.